Unprecedented. Strange. Unknown. Dangerous. Scary. The new normal.
We’ve all heard the descriptions associated with the times in which we are currently living. The news is saturated with them; and our responses, both individually and collectively, have spurred no shortage of discussion and opinions about what is best as a society. Regardless, continuity of operations in some shape or another has been shoved to the forefront of thought for most of us. Conventions and large meetings have been canceled or rescheduled. In-person meetings have been moved to Zoom or another video conferencing platform. Kids of all ages are engaging in distance learning. Essential employees who are unable to simply work from home must wear a mask and maintain a 6’ minimum distance from others, and so on. As state and local restrictions are lifted, chances are good it will be a combination of preventive measures that will require some continued alteration of our pre-virus lives. Even now you can see the headlines asking if work will ever be the same whenever this is all over.
We don’t know the precise answer to that, but we do know that the ability to maintain or even increase productivity while working remotely has only grown in value over the past several months and that value is unlikely to go away in a quickly changing economy. Just as working from an office does not automatically make one productive, working from home or remotely from some other location does not automatically make one unproductive. We recently published a piece that looked at a study that touched on the amount of wasted time per week for the average data worker where work location had no bearing on the amount of time wasted.
At its core, agricultural research is collaborative. This is particularly true in public agricultural research where most everything veers toward open source and away from proprietary. And while collaborative in the context of agricultural research can mean working together in the same room on the same challenge, usually it does not. On the contrary, researchers linked across borders and research programs is a pretty standard occurrence.
The trend toward more collaboration in agricultural research is only getting stronger, too. In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress created the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR).
The premise of FFAR’s formation was that increased investment in cutting edge research and development, through public-private partnerships, would be critical to nourishing a growing global population. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research was created to support food and agriculture research, foster collaboration, and advance and complement the mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Not only does FFAR’s creation provide an example of the belief and support of our federally-elected leaders for future agricultural research collaboration, but it also gives U.S. agricultural stakeholders the confidence to further expand on industry support systems to further build upon that agricultural research collaboration.
So what does all this mean for agricultural research?
The production agricultural industry is accustomed to moving forward, regardless of the environmental curveballs that Mother Nature throws at it, and it is reasonable to think that it is perfectly capable to navigate our current public health challenges too. Production agriculture research mirrors this mindset and oftentimes views atypical environmental stressors as an early litmus test for a variety.
In addition to this forward-progress mindset, the industry is also adept at working collaboratively across distances. If a meeting or conference cannot be attended in person, chances are good that remote participation will be an option. For the past few years Medius Ag has had meeting participants “attend” important client meetings remotely out of necessity. Some didn’t have the time, some didn’t have the budget, and some didn’t have a supervisor’s approval. The common denominator in these instances is that despite their limitations, they were still able to participate in the meetings in a meaningful way. Even now, in the age of social distancing and remote meetings, Medius Ag is helping a stakeholder prepare for a statewide meeting to take place later this month. Is it ideal? No, and it isn’t likely anyone would suggest that it is, but agricultural research is not something easily rescheduled. There are planting and harvest schedules to be considered, among other things. Without having the tools to continue some of these critical meetings from a distance, it could potentially set back research by an entire crop year.
The takeaway from all of this is that agricultural research has, out of necessity, been moving to a more versatile way of conducting collaborative business for years. The demands of the market have required it. Of course the challenges associated with a global pandemic represents uncharted territory for all industries. However, given its resiliency and technological progressiveness, the agricultural industry is strongly positioned to continue in the face of adversity, no matter how unprecedented it may be.